Travel Tech 101 by Phil Baker

December 16, 2004: The Bah Humbug Technology Awards for 2004
Don't you hate it when companies treat you badly? And, no, I'm not talking about the airlines. That's a column by itself. I'm talking about technology companies. These are my votes for what I'm calling the Bah Humbug Technology Awards. They're given to companies and individuals who don't demonstrate a giving attitude, at the holidays or any other time of the year.

December 9, 2004: A Tale of Two Great Airlines
If I was surveyed by the marketing department of one of the Big Six airlines, they'd probably think I was an eccentric. Why? Because my favorite airlines are Southwest and Singapore. They're not satisfied with the status quo. Both airlines keep reinventing themselves and they introduce new and better products that provide more value for the money.

December 2, 2004: My High-Tech Holiday Gift Guide
Here are some of my favorite high-tech gift suggestions for those gadget lovers on your holiday list. Prices range from less than $50 to around $1,500. And the best news: All the gifts are available online from or other Web sites, so you never even have to leave your computer screen to shop!

November 18, 2004: Why I've Switched (Mostly) to Macintosh
For the last few months I've been trying a Macintosh 15-inch PowerBook running OS X and comparing it to a Sony Vaio TR-2a notebook PC running Windows XP Home. My conclusion: I've decided to switch much of my work to the Mac and use it as my primary computer although I'll occasionally still use the Sony when I want to travel with the lightest computer.

November 4, 2004: The Treo 650: Looks Familiar, Works Much Better
I've been trying a pre-release version of PalmOne's Treo 650, the successor to the hugely successful Treo 600. The Treo 650 doesn't appear to have changed much. It's the same size and form factor. But it is a significant improvement on the Treo 600 in nearly all areas, further distancing the Treo from the other new smart phones now coming to market.

October 28, 2004: Defensive Computing for the Business Traveler
It's illegal for someone to walk into our home through an unlocked door and record our conversations, but there is very little inhibition to trespassing on our computers and recording our computing activities. How do we deal with spyware, pop-ups, adware and other pests? Here are five practical rules for business travelers to keep their computers safe.

October 14, 2004: Serious Mobile Phones for the Business Traveler
I've been trying out two phones targeted to serious business travelers: Verizon's new Samsung SCH-a790 World Phone and Sprint's Samsung SP i-600. If you like Verizon's service and travel worldwide, the Samsung SCH-a790 may be just the phone for you. The Samsung SP i-600 from Sprint comes with the latest Microsoft 2003 Smartphone operating system.

October 7, 2004: Is It Time to Switch to Mac?
When I last looked at the Mac, I ran into a few compatibility issues and, frankly, switching from a PC didn't seem worth the effort. But with new software to help with the conversion, the increasing pain of using a Windows-based PC and the superb new models from Apple, I thought Macs were worth a second and more thorough look.

September 30, 2004: Notebook Computers Great and Small
Notebook computers are a mature product category, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers from trying to find ways to dis-tinguish their products. The Sony X505 seems to be the result of a design challenge to create the thinnest, lightest notebook possible. Meanwhile, Averatec's Mobile Theater has built-in DVD capabilities and a huge monitor.

September 9, 2004: Don't Skype This Column
SkypeOut lets you call from your computer or laptop to any phone number in the world for a small charge. For example, calls between the United States and most of Asia in either direction are just 2 cents a minute. Bottom line: Skype is one of the best products I've come across in recent months and well worth downloading and trying.

August 26, 2004: Must-Have Items for Frequent Laptop Users
Frequent notebook users are constantly dealing with the need for battery power, easy and fast connectivity to the Internet and techniques to protect important data. Eventually, of course, we will have laptops with 20 hours of battery life, fast online back-up storage and low-cost connectivity. But until then, we'll need to deal with reality--and use some of these products.

July 29, 2004: What Took Verizon Wireless So Long?
In what can best be described as a case of "What took you so long?", Verizon Wireless finally introduced the much-admired Treo 600. It's hard to understand why Verizon is so good on the service side, yet always seems to be playing catch-up with its hardware offerings and why it consistently offers far fewer new models than its competitors.

July 8, 2004: A High-Tech (Laptop) Case Study
I've been looking at new carrying cases designed to handle the computers, accessories and other high-tech stuff that we lug on trips. These cases attempt to bring some order to the chaos of carrying technology. All are cleverly designed and represent some of the best of the latest offerings. I've listed them by their capacity, from smallest to largest.

June 17, 2004: It's an iPod World. We Just Travel in It.
The Apple iPod has changed the lifestyles of those of us who like to carry music on the road. And now Apple has introduced the iPod mini, its smallest, lowest-cost and most road-friendly iPod yet. Its introduction comes as other firms are ramping up new iPod accessories that make the Apple system extremely practical as an on-the-road companion.

June 10, 2004: The Best of What's New in High Tech
The Zire 72 is a supercharged organizer that does everything the original Palms did and a lot more while still maintaining the simplicity for which Palms are known. If you're looking for something better than Microsoft Explorer, try NetCaptor from Stilesoft. And Anagram is a clever utility for Outlook that saves time and works like magic.

May 20, 2004: The Current Best-of-Class Notebook Computers
There's been great progress from notebook manufacturers in packing more features into smaller, lighter packages. My two current favorite notebook products are the innovative Sony Vaio TR series and the new, low-priced IBM ThinkPad X40 series. So how does the X40 compare to the Sony TR3a? Depending on your priorities, both are excellent choices.

May 6, 2004: Google's Got a Brand New (E-Mail) Bag
Google has done a great job helping us search for information on the Internet. Retrieving information on our computer ought to be trivial by comparison. But Windows' lack of fast, effective search capabilities is now considered to be one of its greatest weaknesses. Thankfully, there are new solutions that have been introduced by Google and other companies.

April 29, 2004: Cutting the Cost of International Cell Phones
With a GSM phone anyone calling your cell number will reach you when you're out of the country. But you will pay dearly for this convenience. Depending on the country, your carrier and your calling plan, it can cost from $1-$5 per minute regardless of whether someone calls you or you make a call. I have found three ways to lower the cost.

April 22, 2004: Two (Printers) for the Road
With all the miniaturization of notebooks, what's happening with portable printers? The answer is a mixed bag. While the printers aren't shrinking in size at the rate of notebooks, they have become very capable performers and now rival desktop printers.

These columns originally appeared at

These columns are Copyright 2004 by San Diego Daily Transcript. Reprinted with permission.